Sleeve/track notes for the Decent Scrapers' CD The John Clare Project

1 Bonny Lasses/Kempshot Hunt

Clare wrote in his poem The Helpstone Statute or The Recruiting Party:

He loved the wenches monstrous well
& never wished to teaze
But gloried in his fiddling skill
That had the power to please
& when he found his trampled hat
Mid broken pipes and glasses
With vengeance half appeased he sat
& struck up Bonny Lasses

Kempshot (Clare’s spelling) Hunt is a tune with Regency associations, Kempshott House in Hampshire being a home of the Prince Regent where he went stag hunting. The tune allows for an alternative Myxolidian-style treatment (not here) which we also like.

2 Archers Dance/Regent's Fête

Archers Dance is a typical English jig and was published as The Archer’s Dance in Preston’s Twenty Four Country Dances for 1793, the year of John Clare’s birth.

Regent’s Fête is a tune that might have been written for a huge fête held at Carlton House by the Prince Regent to honour exiled French royalty in 1811. (Note that John Clare did not have much use for apostrophes and we have not necessarily added them except to make the meaning clearer.)

3 The Bud of the Rose

Clare met his wife Patty while out on a fiddling expedition. “We used to go on Sundays to the Flower Pot a little public house in Tikencoat ... and in one of these excursions I first saw Patty going across the fields ... Chance quickly thro her again in my way a few weeks later after one evening when I was going to fiddle at Stamford”.

Clare got Patty pregnant and had to marry her, so she was more fortunate than that staple of 19th century song, the girl who had lost her honour and was deserted by her lover. Clare’s title for the tune is The Wandering Girl; the words are from a broadside. (Deacon p.283)

4 Flower of Edinborough/Poor Soldier

In letters and poems Clare recorded village customs, including morris dancing:

Deckt out in ribbons gay and papers cut
Fine as a maidens fancy of(f) they strut
& fast the morris dance from door to door
their highest gains a penny nothin more.

The Helpstone men may not have danced to these tunes, but we know them as morris tunes.

5 The Bell/The Cassano/Lincolnshire Rangers

A lively set of tunes beginning with The Bell (aka The Ball) with its 9 bar B music. Did Clare make a mistake writing it out or is that how he played it? No matter, we like it so much we repeat the repeat the last time through.

6 Wars Alarmes

Clare wrote in his autobiographical notes “my father ...was likewise fond of Ballads, and I have heard him make a boast of it over his horn of ale with his merry companions that he could sing or recite above a hundred; he had a tollerable good voice & was often calld upon to sing at those most convivial of merry makings”.

He describes Wars Alarmes as a song taken from his father’s singing. It comes from a musical play called The Camp and was written by Thomas Linley the Elder in 1778.

7 Marfull/Stringers hornpipes

A pair of hornpipes that fit together perfectly

8 Dorset Shire and Lincolnshire marches

The years of John Clare’s childhood and youth were the years of the Napoleonic Wars. Local militias were strengthened and men were recruited for training in case of invasion. John Clare joined and did a few weeks training but was never called upon to fight. It was a great age of military music and military bands. He wrote in The Helpstone Statute or The Recruiting Party:

Horses and gigs went whisking by
With farming gent and lady,
Althoughe twas autumns cloudy sky
Joys blossomed as at May Day
And soldiers gan their drums to rap
When near the town advancing
Which set like magic every chap
To capering and to dancing.

9 Soldiers' Cloak

Clare did not speak of himself as a singer, but in 1849 he wrote to his son from the asylum, enquiring about friends and neighbours in Helpstone, including “John Cobbler ... and Tom Clare ... we used to Sing capital Songs and we were all merry together”. This is Clare’s tune Soldiers Cloak and the words are from a broadside.

10 Evening Hymn

The only tune he had of a religious nature

11 Quick Step in the Battle of Prague

Clare wrote in his autobiographical writings “I used to seize the leisure that every wet day brought me to go to Drury’s shop to read books and to get new tunes for my fiddle which was a pleasure of a pastime”. This piece was composed by Franz Kotswara in 1788 as part of a suite to commemorate the Battle of Prague (1751). It was immensely popular and this must be one of the tunes he copied.

12 Bachelor's Hall

Clare wrote “I used to spend many of my winter nights and Sabbath leisures when I grew up in the world at a neighbours house of the name of Billings. It was a sort of meeting house for the young fellows of the town where they used to join for ale and tobacco and sing and drink the night away. The occupiers were two Bachelors and their cottage was called Bachelors Hall.” There is a broadside of a song called Bachelors Hall which seems to have fallen out of the oral tradition in England but has been collected all over North America. The tune is from a Canadian version.

13 Red Pettycoat/Dukes hornpipes

Another pair of funky, not to say addictive, hornpipes.

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